If there’s one thing we will all connect with Covid lockdowns it’s the rise of the Zoom chat. Be it team meetings, Friday night fun with friends, or family calls, the past two years have seen us spend more time in front of our screens than ever before. And between working, Zooming, Netflix marathon sessions and endless scrolling, the average adult will spend more than 30 years of their life staring at screens.
It’s no surprise that with this increase in screen time comes an increase in complaints of dry eyes and eye strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome. This results in tired eyes, blurred or double vision as well as head, neck or back aches.
So how do we prevent a nasty case of tired eyes from the computer? UCL’s Professor Dawn Sim is an ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital and co-founder of eye health brand MTHK.
How to prevent tired eyes from using a computer
Remember to blink!
Most of us blink less frequently when we’re concentrating or staring at a screen. If you blink less, your protective tear film evaporates, drying out your eyes. Avoid this by blinking consciously, keeping your eyes closed for half a second before reopening. Repeat this about 20 times and you’ll notice that your eyes start feeling fresher as they rebuild their natural hydration.
Use an eye spray or drops
Digital screens reduce blink rate by two thirds, which in turn impacts the health of the surface of the eye and may cause discomfort such as dry eye syndrome. Take care of the front of the eyes by making sure they’re well moisturised and lubricated with the intermittent use of refreshing teardrops and eye sprays. But avoid those that have preservatives as they can start to irritate your eyes after a while.
Roll your eyes
Sit with your back straight and, without moving your head, slowly and purposefully roll your eyes in a clockwise direction, starting with the left, then to the ceiling, then to the right and finally look at the floor. Repeat this 10 times. And then reverse the roll (going anti-clockwise). This exercise will help with eye fatigue.
Try the 20-20-20 rule
Look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds helps to reduce strain and fatigue on your eye muscles. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule.
Dehydration makes dry eye symptoms worse. If you’re sitting in front of a screen all day, not drinking enough water will make your eyes feel even worse. Make sure you take water with you wherever you go and remember that coffee has a mild diuretic effect – so if you’re drinking several cups a day, make sure you’re topping up with water.
Adjust your screen brightness
If your screen has a background so bright that it looks like a light source, it’s time to turn down the brightness. If the screen feels grey or dull, you may need to increase the screen brightness. Try adjusting your screen’s refresh rate to between 70 and 85 Hz. Most computer screens will refresh at a rate of 60 Hz (which can cause flickering or rolling of the screen). This helps with eye strain if you’re going to be using the screen for a long time.
Place the palms slightly cupped over your eyes, without applying pressure. Let your fingertips overlap, resting on the forehead and try to not let any light through and breathe deeply for about a minute. This exercise is known as ‘palming’ in the yoga world and it’s good for your eyes, as well as relaxing you.